News
Gravitational Waves Events
October 13, 2017
Gravitational Waves Events
I am pleased to let you know about three special, late-breaking news events that will take place on campus this coming Monday and Tuesday.

FIRST, On Monday, October 16th at 09:00 CDT, the National Science Foundation will host a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., bringing together scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo collaborations, as well as representatives from some 70 observatories. This will be live-streamed and we will set up a live viewing with some of the involved University of Chicago scientists in the lobby of ERC, as well as in room 201 of the Physics Research Center.

The press briefing will begin with an overview of new findings from LIGO, Virgo and partners that span the globe, followed by details from telescopes that work with the LIGO and Virgo collaborations to study extreme events in the cosmos.

The discovery of gravitational-waves by LIGO opened a new window to the Universe and involved several UChicago scientists. This year's Nobel Prize in Physics recognized three scientists for their contributions to the LIGO detector and the first observation of gravitational waves.

SECOND, there will be a special, more technical colloquium on the topic Monday, October 16th at 4:00 p.m. CDT in ERC 161, featuring University scientists Daniel Holz and Joshua Frieman, followed by discussion and comments by Holz, Frieman, Hubble Fellow Dan Scolnic, University Professor Wendy Freedman, and students and postdocs involved in the new findings. Following the discussion there will be a reception in the atrium.

THIRD, there will be an event on Tuesday, October 17th from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. in Kersten Physics Teaching Center (KPTC 120), consisting of about 5 short presentations by graduate students and postdocs and a Q&A/discussion. This will be geared more to the general public and university undergraduates.

I encourage you to join us for any of these special gatherings.

Rocky Kolb,
Dean of the Physical Sciences
The University of Chicago

Congratulations to Dr. Alessandro Manzotti!
July 24, 2017
Dr. Alessandro Manzotti
Congratulations to Alessandro Manzotti for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Unveiling the early Universe: delensing the Cosmic Microwave Background with galaxy surveys".

"Alessandro led the team that carried out the first 'de-lensing' of the polarization in the cosmic microwave background. Using data from the South Pole Telescope, the team used software to undo what billions of years of propagation through the clumpy universe has done: distorted the pattern of polarization. This first demonstration is the harbinger of what will ultimately become an essential tool in analyses of future SPT CMB-Stage 4 data."
- Scott Dodelson, Ph.D. advisor

Alessandro has received a Lagrange Fellow position at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris.

Congratulations to Dr. Laura Mocanu!
July 21, 2017
Dr. Laura M. Mocanu
Congratulations to Laura Mocanu for successfully defending her Ph.D. dissertation on "Measuring the cosmic microwave background gravitational lensing potential and its power spectrum with SPTpol".

"Monica has make many important contributions to the analysis of South Pole Telescope CMB data. For her thesis she has used SPTpol temperature and polarization data to produce the most sensitive CMB lensing reconstruction of the mass distribution in the universe, paving the wave for SPT-BICEP B-mode delensing and other cosmological analysis."
- John Carlstrom, Ph.D. advisor

Laura has received a Postoctoral fellowship at the University of Oslo.

John Carlstrom becomes the new Chair of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
July 13, 2017
Prof. John E. Carlstrom
I am very pleased to share the news of Department Chair appointment in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Effective October 1, 2017, John Carlstrom will become the Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics. His scientific excellence will serve the department well in the coming years.

I thank Angela Olinto for her excellent service as Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

I look forward to working closely with John as he takes on leadership of the Department. Please join me in congratulating him on this appointment.

Rocky Kolb,
Dean of the Physical Sciences Division

Congratulations to Dr. Chen He Heinrich!
June 19, 2017
Congratulations to Dr. Chen He Heinrich!
Congratulations to Chen He Heinrich for successfully defending her Ph.D. dissertation on "Lensing Bias to CMB Polarization Measurements of Compensated Isocurvature Perturbations".

Chen has received a postdoc position in cosmology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA.

Space Explorers Program Evaluation and Experiments Featured at the 2017 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Meeting Los Angeles, CA
June 14, 2017
Randall H. Landsberg presented "Space Explorers: 25 Years of Inner-city Students Out of School Time Explorations" as part of the "mission possible" thread at the NSTA national conference. The talk included data on how students in the program are out preforming their peers and exemplar, hands-on, inquiry based experiments. The experiments both involved measurements but in very different realms: the size of the universe and the response rates of rods compared to cones in the human eye.


Space Explorers Compared to Chicago Public Schools.


Undergraduate First-Year STEM Majors National Data Comparison.

Presentation Abstract:
Since 1991 Space Explorers has offered first generation, low income inner-city students and university astrophysics researchers the opportunity to explore together (with over one hundred contact hours a year). An external evaluation probed the impacts of this program on the hundreds of students and instructors involved. We will examine the evaluation findings, which map well to the recent NRC study on out of school time programs. We will also explore some of our favorite lab activities, hear about taking students to Yerkes Observatory for residential science institutes, and discuss best practices for university and community based organization partnerships. Take home new ideas for student labs and partnerships.


Space Explorers Careers
(respondent 4 years past high school graduation n~100).

Congratulations to Dr. Hsin-Yu Chen!
June 12, 2017
Dr. Hsin-Yu Chen
Congratulations to Hsin-Yu Chen for successfully defending her Ph.D. dissertation on "Multi-messenger Astronomy with Advanced LIGO-Virgo".

"Hsin-Yu's work is helping set the stage for the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy. She has played an active role within the LIGO collaboration in the analysis of our first detections, while also becoming a leader in the field of multi-messenger astronomy."
- Daniel E. Holz, PhD advisor

Hsin-Yu has received a postdoc position at the Black Hole Initiative (Harvard).

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Fedderke!
June 9, 2017
Dr. Michael Fedderke
Congratulations to Michael Fedderke for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Studies in Higgs physics, particle dark matter and early universe".

"Michael's thesis work covers several important aspects of particle physics and cosmology. It includes detailed studies on the signal of dark matter annihilation in the galactic halo. After producing an interesting paper on the heavy particle production in the early universe, he delved into Higgs physics. He evaluated the potential of discovering new physics via fermionic Higgs portal, which has implications for the physics reach of both current and future colliders. In his most recent project, he has also constructed a model which addressed the little hierarchy problem in the composite Higgs scenario using cosmological evolution of an axion like field."
- LianTao Wang, PhD advisor

Michael has received a joint postdoc position at Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

Congratulations to PFC member Wayne Hu, newly inducted NAS member!
May 1, 2017
Prof. Wayne Hu is signing the "Registry of Membership" of the National Academy of Science.
Prof. Wayne Hu has been introduced to his colleagues in the Academy and he signed the "Registry of Membership" at the NAS Presentation Ceremony. NAS Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

Members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Video of the Presentation Ceremony

Congratulations to PFC member Joshua Frieman!
April 27, 2017
Prof. Josh Frieman
Congratulations to KICP Senior Member Joshua Frieman for his election as Vice Chair of the Executive Committee of the Division of Astrophysics of the American Physical Society.

The Division of Astrophysics (DAP), organized in 1970, engages in observational and theoretical investigation that relates to the study of physical processes in stars and other discrete galactic sources, galactic structure and evolution, the early history and evolution of the Universe, and the Sun and solar activity. Division interests also have significant overlap with other APS divisions such as Particles and Fields, Nuclear Physics, and Plasma Physics.

The Halo Boundary of Galaxy Clusters in SDSS
April 24, 2017
A cluster formed in a Lambda-Cold Dark Matter simulation of structure formation.

Credit: Benedikt Diemer, Philip Mansfield
KICP astrophysicists Chihway Chang and Andrey Kravtsov have participated in a recent study, which presents strong evidence for the physical edge of galaxy clusters using public data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The existence of such physical edges associated with sharp density drops due to the density caustics formed by accreting matter was predicted by KICP researchers Benedikt Diemer and Andrey Kravtsov in 2014, as part of Diemers PhD research. In a follow-up study, Diemer, Kravtsov and a former KICP fellow Surhud More (currently at Institute of Physics of the Universe, Tokyo, Japan) have shown that the-edges can be considered to be natural physical boundary of dark matter halos that provide the gravitational "back-bone" for the structures observed in the galaxy distribution.

In the recent study, co-led by Chihway Chang and Eric Baxter - a former KICP student and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania - the density drop associated with the halo edges was detected in the galaxy distribution around cluster centers.

Cosmological simulations show that massive galaxy clusters we see today have been accreting galaxies into their deep gravitational potential over the cosmic time. The process of galaxies "falling into" the cluster's potential well is a fairly clean and universal process that depends only on basic quantities of the cluster such as mass and accretion rate. One of the result of this simple picture is a sharp feature in the number density of galaxies around clusters - an imprint of the caustic formed by the infalling galaxies as they reach the first apocenter of their orbit, or the "edge" of the galaxy cluster. Researchers called the distance of the edge the "splashback" radius, as galaxies literally "splashing back" to that radius after they accrete onto cluster.

Together with collaborators in UPenn and UIUC, that included KICP faculty Andrey Kravtsov, Chihway Chang and Eric Baxter, examined distribution of galaxies around a sample of clusters identified within the SDSS. The existence of the edge in the galaxy distribution within clusters was confirmed. In addition, the analysis revealed that properties of galaxies around cluster are sensitive to existence of the edge. Outside the splashback radius, the mix of red and blue galaxies was approximately independent of the distance from the cluster center, while inside the splashback radius the mix is abruptly changes towards a larger fraction of red galaxies. This indicates that the edge is a real dynamical feature and that majority of galaxies get transformed by the cluster environment from blue to red in less than one orbital period.



This figure shows the fraction of red and blue galaxies around galaxy clusters. The sharp change in the red fraction indicates that galaxy tend to turn red once they enter the edge of the cluster, which is marked by the grey vertical band. (Figure modified from the paper "The Halo Boundary of Galaxy Clusters in the SDSS".)

Related KICP references:

The Event Horizon Telescope's historic quest
April 13, 2017
The South Pole Telescope
This week the South Pole Telescope joined a global network of telescopes to take observations which aim to capture the highest-resolution image ever taken of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Read more:

The PFC will welcome 5 new Fellows in the Autumn of 2017
March 9, 2017
The PFC will welcome 5 new Fellows in the Autumn of 2017
Reed Essick received his PhD from MIT focusing on strong tides in close binary systems and gravitational radiation. His work has touched many areas of gravitational-wave astrophysics, from data quality and detection to phenomenological source modeling. Reed plans to continue this research at KICP and looks forward to exploring the physics accessible through measurements of populations gravitational wave sources.

Macarena Lagos will receive her PhD from Imperial College London. Her research focuses on theoretical cosmology, specifically on analysing the viability of alternative gravity theories and developing methods to test gravity at large scales. At KICP, Macarena hopes to continue her current research and start new collaborations with its members.

Kirit Karkare will join us as a joint Grainger and KICP Fellow after completing his degree at Harvard University, where he worked on hardware and systematics analysis for the BICEP/Keck CMB polarization experiments. At the KICP, he plans to continue working on the CMB with BICEP and SPT, and on detector development for line intensity mapping and measurements of high-redshift galaxies.

Wai Ling (Kimmy) Wu did her graduate work at Stanford University with the BICEP/Keck team on the design, testing, and deployment of BICEP3 -- a small aperture CMB polarimeter that aims to target the inflationary gravitational wave B-mode signature. She then moved to UC Berkeley to work with the SPT team on the SPT-3G receiver and on delensing CMB B-mode maps, an important step to further constraint the inflationary B-mode signature. At KICP, she plans on extending her delensing work with BICEP/Keck and SPT datasets and looks forward to exploring new avenues to understand the cosmos with fellow KICP researchers.

Grayson Rich carried out research at Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) while a graduate student at the University of North Carolina. As a part of the COHERENT Collaboration, he has been working towards the first observation of coherent, elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering (CEvNS): a low-energy neutrino-nucleus interaction arising from the standard model but still undetected over 40 years after its prediction. As a KICP Fellow and an Enrico Fermi Fellow at the Enrico Fermi Institute, he will maintain involvement with COHERENT and continue to advance an effort he spearheaded at TUNL to provide definitive characterizations of the responses of neutrino and dark matter detector systems, working with several groups at KICP and the broader astroparticle physics community. He also hopes to work with KICP and EFI members to exploit high-energy astrophysical signals, seeking insight into cosmological questions and the properties of fundamental particles.

Hsin-Yu Chen has been selected for a Cronin Fellowship
February 15, 2017
Hsin-Yu Chen has been selected for a Cronin Fellowship
Please join me in congratulating Hsin-Yu Chen who has been selected for a Cronin Fellowship for 2017. The James Cronin Graduate Student Fellowship honors Professor Cronin though support of exceptional Ph.D. candidates. The Cronin Fellowship will support Hsin-Yu's research work up to the end of Summer quarter 2017, when she is expected to graduate.

Congratulations Hsin-Yu!

Angela V. Olinto,
Homer J. Livingston Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Deflategate: Cold Wet Footballs, Ideal Gas Laws and Accusations of Cheating
February 8, 2017
Deflategate: Cold Wet Footballs, Ideal Gas Laws and Accusations of Cheating
Just in time for Super Bowl LI, students in the Space Explorers Program examined the physics and media frenzy of Deflategate. During the 2015 AFC championship game, NFL officials discovered that the pressure in several footballs used by the New England Patriots had decreased below permissible levels. This sparked a national controversy known as "Deflategate". The NFL (as well as many enemies the four-time Super Bowl champions Patriots had made in the football world) argued that the pressure drop could only be caused by cheating, especially because Tom Brady favors underinflated balls. (note: each team controls 12 footballs used when they are on offense mandated to be between 12.5 and 13.5 psi ). Patriots' fans argued that the drop was caused either by well known laws of physics, or by an elaborate NFL conspiracy.

Twenty-eight (28) high school students in KICP's Space Explorers program put these arguments to the test. Over the course of two weeks, students critically evaluated over a dozen arguments made by both sides, ranging from court documents, to college lectures, to tweets. Despite the strong opinions, contradictory claims, and often factually incorrect information found in these arguments, the Space Explorers managed to identify the critical questions that needed to be resolved to determine if Deflategate could be caused by purely innocuous physics and designed an experiment to address them. Their experiment revolved around measuring the effect that wetness had on the rate at which cold footballs warm up and increase in pressure.

To date their results are inconclusive. One trial found nothing suspicious about the pressure drop, and a second could not explain the low pressures in the Patriots' footballs. The Space Explorers themselves are split down the middle about how to interpret their results and will debate the best way to resolve this difference at the pre-Super Bowl Saturday class.

Summer Undergraduate Researcher Michael Foley Wins AAS Chambliss Student Medal
February 1, 2017
Undergraduate Michael Foley (Far Left) received an AAS Chambliss Student Medal for work conducted with KICP Fellow Dan Scolnic (Second from Right).
KICP Summer undergraduate research student Michael Foley was recently awarded a Chambliss Student Medal at the 229th AAS meeting for a presentation on his KICP research. Michael, a Notre Dame student, worked at the KICP on a grant from Notre Dame's Glynn Family Honors Program and was mentored by KICP Fellow Dan Scolnic and Senior Researcher Rick Kessler. Michael's poster presented his work on The Foundation Survey, a new low-redshift supernova survey that uses the Pan-STARRS telescope to measure distances of Type Ia Supernovae in the Hubble flow. The survey will be a critical resource in the coming years to improve measurements of the Hubble constant and satisfy the WFIRST low-redshift sample requirement for measurements of dark energy. According to mentor Scolnic, "Michael helped rewrite the full photometry pipeline, determined our absolute calibration, created accurate simulations of the survey and became completely indispensable in just one summer."


Read more

Former PFC Fellow Eric Dahl honored with a PECASE
January 24, 2017
Former KICP Fellow Eric Dahl
Former KICP Fellow Eric Dahl has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE); the highest honor presented by the U.S. Government to scientists and engineers during the early stages of their careers. Dahl's research at the KICP focused on the COUPP/PICO series of bubble chamber based dark matter detection experiments. His current research continues to focus upon PICO, where he is developing new and innovating ways to use this technology to detect dark matter.

Read more:

On MLK Day King College Prep Cosmology Club Explores Dark Matter
January 16, 2017
On MLK Day King College Prep Cosmology Club Explores Dark Matter
On Martin Luther King Day, 2017, students from the Cosmology Club at Dr. Martin Luther King Prep High School will visit KICP to learn about current dark matter research and tour the lab facilities. The instructor of the club, Nora Wengerski, has been working with KICP Professor Luca Grandi and his group for several months, including a week-long research experience in the summer of 2016 and developing the curriculum for the King Prep cosmology club, which is in its inaugural year.

Space Explorer Naa Ashitey is the Quest Bridge Finalist for the University of Chicago
December 12, 2016
KICP Space Explorer Naa Ashitey (third from the left) is the Quest Bridge Finalist for the University of Chicago
Naa will join the UChicago Class of 2021 with a full four-year scholarship as a pre-med/psychology major. She has been a participant in the KICP Space Explorers Program for the past three years.

QuestBridge is a nonprofit program designed to assist high-achieving, academically motivated students from low-income backgrounds apply to top colleges around the nation. The program features the National College Match, in which students rank and apply to up to eight of QuestBridge's partner colleges. Students who are matched receive a generous four-year, no-loan scholarship.

Mark SubbaRao to become IPS President-Elect
December 7, 2016
Mark SubbaRao to become IPS President-Elect
Congratulations to KICP Member, and Adler Planetarium Astronomer, Mark SubbaRao, who will become the President-Elect of the International Planetarium Society on January 1, 2017.

Mark SubbaRao won the recent International Planetarium Society (IPS) election and will assume the role of President-Elect of this prestigious society at the beginning of 2017. In two year's time he will become the President of the IPS for a two year term.

In his candidate's statement, Mark said "I am running for IPS President to help shape the future of the planetarium, this wonderful medium which can inspire the public like nothing else.
... If elected, I will focus on building a more active organization and expanding professional development opportunities. We will support research that demonstrates how effective the planetarium is."

Read the entire statement at the International Planetarium Society website.Learn more >>

Chicago high school students visit to experience "A day in the life of a scientist"
November 15, 2016
Professor Freedman talks about life as a scientist with the students.
KICP Senior Member Wendy Freedman has been invited to be the 2016-2017 Robert A. Pritzker Visiting Scientist in Residence at Chicago's Francis W. Parker School. The program aims to expand science education opportunities at Parker and foster an ongoing dialogue among students and teachers about current issues in science.

As part of her activities, Professor Freedman recently arranged for students to visit the Eckhardt Research Center for a discussion and tour of the KICP and Astronomy & Astrophysics labs and the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility. Students visited the PNF and the KICP labs of Professor Erik Shirokoff (where Associate Fellow Peter Barry described the lab equipment and activities), and gathered in Professor Stephan Meyer's lab to see a camera that will be used in a balloon-borne experiment to detect cosmic ray showers. Professors Meyer and Freedman also spoke to students about various aspects of their research and their lives as scientists.


Professor Meyer explains Extensive Air Showers to the visiting students.


Stephan Meyer showing the visitors around his lab.


Associate Fellow Peter Barry explaining a piece of apparatus in the Shirokoff lab.

SPT-3G Camera Has Shipped to the South Pole
November 1, 2016
SPT-3G Camera Has Shipped to the South Pole
The SPT-3G camera is on its way to the South Pole! SPT-3G shipped from Fermilab on Friday October 28 and is expected to arrive at the South Pole on November 12, 2016. In February 2017, SPT-3G will begin a 4-year survey to make new, sensitive measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). You can read more about the SPT-3G camera at "SPT-3G: A Next-Generation Cosmic Microwave Background Polarization Experiment on the South Pole Telescope".